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Opponents of Duke Energy’s Edwardsport Plant Lose Battle As Duke Increases Monthly Charges

Opponents of Duke Energy’s Edwardsport coal gasification plant have lost another battle in the fight to keep Duke from passing on plant development costs to consumers.

Last week, the Indiana Court of Appeal unanimously upheld an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ruling in 2012 to allow Duke to increase by 16  percent its monthly charges to its 790,000 Indiana customers to cover increases in costs of its Edwardsport plant.

The appeal to the courts to overturn the IURC deal with Duke was launched by several environmental and consumer groups.

The 618-megawatt plant near Edwardsport had an original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion, but that eventually ballooned to about $3.5 billion. In a 2012 settlement between Duke and the IURC, the commission limited Duke to passing on $2.6 billion of construction costs to its customers. This settlement included the 16 percent rate increase that was the subject of the court appeal.

Duke had been applying this increase to it customers bills since then and, with the court ruling, will continue to do so.

Kerwin Olson of the Citizens Action Coalition say they appealed and are waiting on the ruling.

“We have every intention of taking this as far as we can,” Olson says.

Olson estimates that Duke’s Indiana customers are paying about 15 dollars monthly for the plant which went online last summer.

Since then, it has operated between 10 and 60 percent of capacity.

Water Pumping Project Finishes $250,000 Under Budget

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The construction of a new water pumping station came in at about $260,000 under budget, according to officials at a Bloomington Utilities Service Board meeting on Feb. 24.

Michael Hicks, the Utilities Department’s capital projects manager, submitted a change order on the $6.5 million project.

“The project is complete and with the approval of this change order we can close out the project with our contractor,” Hicks said.

The construction was performed by the Orleans-based company Layne Incorporated, but the engineering was done by the Kansas-based company Black and Veatch.

Adam Westerman, from Black and Veatch, said the project did not cost as much as expected, in part because the contractor didn’t spend its full budget for items like office supplies, equipment, and furniture.

Board member Jason Banach asked Westerman about the city paying for a contractor’s supplies.

“Is this something we typically pay for, their pens and pencils?” Banach asked.

“We’ve handled it different ways historically, but for the past eight years we’ve taken on the cost of that,” Westerman said, “And anything left comes back to the city.”

The board later voted unanimously to approve the change order.

Interchange – The Wages of Labor: Bloomington’s Industrial Past

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This week on Interchange, host Trish Kerle speaks with Carrol Krause, author of Showers Brothers Furniture Co: The Shared Fortunes of a Family, a City, and a University and Joe Varga, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at Indiana University and a labor and social justice activist.

Since the 1870s, Bloomington has been shaped by the ebb and flow of industrialization – and de-industrialization, beginning with the Showers Brothers Furniture Company, followed by the RCA radio and television factory, right up to today with what appears to be – the fading presence of General Electric. Krause and Varga talk about the history of those companies, their impact on the city, and the rise of organized labor in Bloomington.

Business Outlook Panel Finishes Indiana Tour in Richmond, Expect Economy Growth in Next Year

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The 42 annual tour of the business outlook panel wound up its final presentation yesterday in Richmond, Indiana.

The panel is an annual activity of Kelly School of Business. A group of economists and financial experts who get together each year on October to understand the latest trends in the economy and predict where the economy is heading in the year ahead. Experts will also go around the state over the span of the couple of weeks to most of Indiana’s major cities and talk with audiences in those places about how they see economy shaping up.

There are different members of the panel that deal with the global, national and local economy, Director of Indiana Business Research Center Jerry Conover said.

“We always look forward to hearing what the business people and community leaders across the state are thinking,” Conover said.

Conover says they expect 2014 will begin with unimpressive growth and continue job growth. As the year progress in 2014 though, we will expect to see a stronger growth toward the year end. To put that in figure, it is estimated that the overall economy measured in GDP will expand at about 2.5 percent rate.The employment will grow nationally by a little more than 2 million jobs. Unemployment by the end of the year should be down to 6.5 percent nationally.

Conover says the main factors to growth are the continued low interest rates making borrowing affordable for business and propping up higher stock market prices as a result.

“Employers have been increasingly optimistic, though there is still a lot of hesitation,” Conover said, “They’re a little bit more willing to invest in new facilities and to hire staff. They’re not nearly yet to the level they were prior to the recession, but we do see progress coming along.”

According to Conover, Indiana mirrors national economy in many respects though the unemployment has continued to be higher than national average. The most recent figure was 8.1 percent for the state, whereas nationally it’s about 1 percentage point lower.

“We expect for the coming year that unemployment will drop in Indiana, probably somewhere in the upper 6 percent range,” Conover said, “Pay roll jobs will grow by about 55,000 more jobs, and that would be stronger growth than we’ve seen this year.”

Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to be a key factor in creating new jobs in Indiana since the recession. Yet, manufacturing employment and wages are not growing nearly as fast as they had been several years ago.

Conover explains that is because firms during the downturns were able to find ways to make their production more efficient, by improving technology, improving processes that didn’t requires many people to do the job. Once those improvements were made, factories are turning out more products and more dollar value of their output even though they don’t have many employees as they used to.

Conover also adds that employment growing substantially more in nonmanufacturing sector. Healthcare services has been one of the big areas. There has been a lot of job growth in various parts of healthcare sector.

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